Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Manga Trumps Film Again

Watched Shinobi: Heart Under Blade. It is not a bad movie, with some aspects like the cinematography and visual effects particularly noteworthy. That it is shot beautifully is not unusual for a Japanese film, but the CG and wire effects used to show off the ninja superpowers, while not up the level of high-buck Hollywood films, is way better than most things I've seen about super-powered martial arts coming out of Hong Kong. This film almost completely eliminates the 'floatiness' of wire-fighting.

However it doesn't hold a candle to the manga version of the story, released in the USA as Basilisk. The whole thing actually originated as a novel, The Koga Ninja Scroll, but I have not read it. My understanding is that both film and manga depart rather a lot from the source material. While the film does read on paper as having the same plot as the comic, the comic is just a more spectacular piece all around.

I had a discussion not too long ago with the manager of our local comic shop about how comics were dying off. Or at the very least, about to hit a huge downturn. His point was that with all the different distractions and pastimes available to kids (and adults) these days, comics just get lost in the shuffle. He felt kids from this point on would STILL find the great stories of the heroes and characters we grew up with in the comics, but that they would know them as TV and movie heroes predominantly. So many more people have probably seen the Iron Man films than have ever cracked open an Iron Man comic book.

I don't think comics, manga, or graphic novels will ever go away. I think they may have to die down from the huge levels of excessive publishing that is still evident in Barnes & Noble and my local comic shop. In relating information about comic book-originated characters to my own kids I really work to make sure they understand where these things all come from.... but it is REALLY difficult to show any advantages to comics over movies or video games. Comics are, by and large, unnecessary to them.

Despite this my kids ARE getting into some comics, manga specifically. Japanese comics have the benefit of being finite.... and having disposable characters. They don't play by the same rules. Most of them tend to be auteur-driven and the creator has an end in sight for his or her story. Manga can be really long-running, but the characters don't run through dozens of writers and artists all of whom have their own ideas about how things should go... or a big company keeping them within the rigors of the house universe. There are tons of American, British, and European graphic novels that break the endless superhero mold, but they don't seem to feature the same iconic (read fan attractive) characters that most manga do. And it is much easier to get started on a manga. Want to read Batman? Where do you frickin' start? Like the Avengers cartoon and want to get more from the comics? Good luck figuring that out. There's the Avengers, New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Ultimate Avengers. Fucking hell. I know a lot about the Avengers, but even I get totally lost. I flip through a couple of books every now and then just to feel like I'm keeping up with the major plot points, but it is all so convoluted... and really it always has been, I just didn't have so much to the rest of my life.

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